Why Politicans Do Better Than Brands On Social Media
A casual observation of social media trends in Kenya will reveal that some of the biggest brands in terms of following are actually politicians. A few have followers verging on 20-25 per cent of all Kenyans on Facebook. Marketers will obviously scratch their heads about this as they seek ever more fans to deliver brand messages to.
Politicians are possibly naturals on social media and this is something marketers have to think about while forgiving themselves for fewer fans.Politicians for starters have daily news and opinions and these engage consumers on an ongoing basis, brands struggle to create online content that is truly engaging.
Few brands have an event or an opinion on every single thing that happens around them. Even then the events are not do or die as political issues often are. Remember too that a protest to bring down food prices on social media is likely to attract more followers than a promotion to give away mobiles.
Politicians are by nature of occupation licensed to engage on each and every populist issue. They are paid to create heat and then direct heat towards positive social or political ends. Heat drives fans and social media action. Brands will often find themselves constrained by legality, morality or policy on the sort of discussions they can engage on.
Politicans also struggle with social media. For starters many are given to top down communication. From years of addressing groups of villagers on everything including the space race and nuclear science, they are given to one way communication. They are mainly trained on oratory.
Political structures built on hierachy do not help either, wisdom has always been cascaded from the top, thus they would naturally struggle to simultaenously listen to thousands of people. They work from a script and thousands can hardly confirm to these scripts. Voters on social media seek information horizontally and not from the top. What “most people” are saying and sharing becomes more importnat than what “Mzee” said. That can be troublesome.
The urban election in 2013, may thus be hugely influenced by social media. Some sitting MPs already have more fans than registered voters in their constituencies. To win an election it could be assumed that all they have to do is campaign with their friends to register and vote where they stand.
Using social media will however be a creative business. For starters the next election lacks large sexy issues. Previous elections had huge rallying issues that brought people across race and tribe together. A new constitution, the removal of an old regime all huge issues that the nation fought for.
The current is a yawn on excitement and lacks the sort of issues that bring the nation to a stop creating heroes along the way. Creating a large social media movement in such polling circumstances can be labored and unexciting. Anyone who has been following the candidates can already tell that. Go ahead, follow a politican on Facebook learn something or get bored stiff.
Frank is lead consultant at FMC and CEO at MobileAgency Sponge.